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Carmen Gebhard, Preliminary Evaluation: What Role for the EU ND? in:

Carmen Gebhard

Unravelling the Baltic Sea Conundrum, page 109 - 111

Regionalism and European Integration Revisited

1. Edition 2008, ISBN print: 978-3-8329-4084-3, ISBN online: 978-3-8452-1239-5 https://doi.org/10.5771/9783845212395

Series: Nomos Universitätsschriften - Politik, vol. 164

Bibliographic information
109 04/01 2nd Ministerial Conference on the EU ND in Luxembourg hosted by the Swedish Presidency in reaction to a Finnish proposal. 06/01 Göteborg European Council endorsed a “Full Report on ND Policies” taking stock of the activities undertaken to implement the Feira Action Plan and also outlining ideas and proposals for the continuation of the ND initiative. 07/02 launch of a Support Fund for the implementation of the NDEP; objective of the Fund was to support the NDEP by mobilising grant funds to leverage IFI loans.372 08/02 3rd Ministerial meeting in Illulisaat/Greenland; discussed guidelines for a 2nd ND AP; 03/03 establishment of the Northern Dimension Research Centre (NORDI) in Lappeenranta 06/03 Commission adopted 2nd Action Plan for the EU ND (2004-2006) 10/03 establishment of the ND Partnership in Public Health and Social Well-being (NDPHS) 08/04 launch of the Northern Dimension Information System (internet-based) intended to provide a technical means to enable the dissemination of information in the ND context, covering the wide range of activities carried forward under the NDAP; 10/04 1st Senior Officials Meeting (SOM), aiming to assess the implementation of the Action Plan, to review progress to date, to identify areas in which a further stimulus would be necessary 11/05 4th Ministerial meeting held in Brussels, approves “Guidelines for the Development of a Political Declaration and a Policy Framework Document for the ND from 2007” 11/06 Council approves “Political Declaration on the Northern Dimension”373 01/07 The “New” EU ND enters into force 02/07 Parliamentary Conference on the Northern Dimension Table 12: Chronology – the Implementation Process of the EU ND III. Preliminary Evaluation: What Role for the EU ND? The question of whether the EU ND was or still is rather a success story or a failure has recently dominated the academic debate about the policy. If ever the main ambition of the Finnish initiative was to get the “Northern issues” onto the official EU working agenda, then the outcome might certainly be seen as a major achievement. The EU ND has brought some more Europeanness to the North, while before, most “southern” Europeans considered it as something extremely remote and peripheral. To some extent, the EU ND can also be regarded as a result of some kind of new Nordic consciousness, some call it “Northernness”374, after the fall of the bipolar structure of world politics. “That implies for the EU a dilution of the strict distinction between internal and external policy, given the fact that the external borders of the EU are overlapped by that Northernness.”375 Indeed, one of the main objectives of the EU ND was to counteract tendencies towards a new European divide at an early stage.376 372 For more information about the NDEP Support Fund, see Rules of the Northern Dimension Environmental Partnership Support Fund. NDEP 02/50 Rev. 1, 30 November 2005. 373 The relaunch of the EU ND in 2006 will be discussed thoroughly in chapter “Promoting the ‘Finnish Perspective’ – Finland’s EU Presidency 2006”, p. 143-. 374 See JOENNIEMI Pertti: The North meets Europe. On the European Union’s Northern Dimension. Working Paper, Copenhagen Peace Research Institute (COPRI). Copenhagen 1999, p. 2. 375 DUBOIS Jeroen: The Northern Dimension as Prototype of the Wider Europe Framework Policy. University of Liverpool, Working Paper. Liverpool 2004, p. 4. 376 See STENLUND Peter: Implementation of a Northern Dimension. In: Northern Research Forum (ed.): North meets North. Proceedings of the First Northern Research Forum, held in Akureyri and Bessastaðir, Iceland. 4-6 November 2002, pp. 126-129, here p. 126. 110 Generally, the EU ND was certainly an important policy initiative to foil the general tendency in the continental European perspective of “northernizing” the Nordic member states, i.e. “imbuing the North with connotations of considerable peripherality somewhere at the margins of, if not outside Europe.”377 From this point of view, the EU ND cannot only be seen as a return of the North onto the European scene but also as a conceptual broadening of the term “North”. However, Joenniemi has a point with the assertion that “making it into the sphere of intra-Union diplomacy” does not yet turn the EU ND into a success story.378 Some emphasise the fact that the EU ND has, since its creation, been remarkably developed and advanced. Does that automatically imply that it can be regarded as an overall success? In the early years after the formal establishment of the EU ND, its institutional specificities often provoked irritations in both the political and the academic field. Quite a few observers doubted the utility and the wisdom of such a concept. For many the term was already strange: ‘dimension’ could mean different things, ranging from hard security to environmental and local cooperation.379 In the first years of its existence, the EU ND was very much about political declarations and affirmative reports. In the wake of its establishment, many perceived the EU ND as some sort of “open frame” or an “imagined empty space” that still had to be filled with content in terms of concrete projects and concepts for further implementation.380 Still today, despite several progressions made in the implementation process, the EU ND remains a considerably fuzzy and vague policy concept. The EU ND has never been very substantial in institutional terms since it built almost exclusively on already existing financial and legal instruments. Most significantly, there never was a specific allocation for the policy framework within the general EC budget. Additionally, the geographical coverage of the EU ND appeared quite unclear from the beginning. For some it was mainly limited to the Baltic Sea area, most importantly including Russia and the Baltic States. For others, in turn, it was certainly to include the far up North meaning Iceland as well as the wider Arctic Circle. Furthermore the ‘real’ objectives appeared hidden: was it just a Finnish initiative proposed mainly in view of this country’s own geographical interest or the starting point for the policy of a larger group of northern countries?381 377 JOENNIEMI Pertti/LEHTI Marko: On the encounter between the Nordic and the northern. Torn Apart but Meeting Again? Copenhagen Peace Research Institute (COPRI): Working Paper, 11/2001, p. 6. 378 See JOENNIEMI Pertti: Can Europe Be Told From The North? Tapping into the EU’s Northern Dimension. In: MÖLLER Frank/PEHKONEN Samu (eds): Encountering the North. Cultural Geography, International Relations, Northern Landscapes. Aldershot 2003, pp. 221-260, here p. 223. 379 WESSELS Wolfgang: Introduction. The Northern Dimension as a Challenging Task. In: BONVICINI Gianni/VAAHTORANTA Tapani/WESSELS Wolfgang (eds): The Northern EU. National Views on the Emerging Security Dimension. Helsinki 2000, pp. 18-29, here p. 20. 380 See CRONBERG Tarja: Transforming Russia From Military to Peace Economy. London 2003, p. 75. 381 WESSELS Wolfgang: Introduction. The Northern Dimension as a Challenging Task. In: BONVICINI Gianni/VAAHTORANTA Tapani/WESSELS Wolfgang (eds): The Northern EU. National Views on the Emerging Security Dimension. Helsinki 2000, pp. 18-29, here p. 20. 111 Indeed, the question of objectives, and relatedly, of the interests and strategic goals of the single players involved has been ambiguous right away. One aspect that proved to be a major weakness of the EU ND was the fact that the policy did not get equal support among the Member States. Repeated Finnish exhortations about the joint ‘European responsibility’ towards the Northeastern neighbourhood did certainly not change anything about the sceptical attitude of the Southern Member States that feared to be disadvantaged by this shift of political attention to the North. What certainly contributed to this effect of lacking awareness among the extra-regional Member States was the set of challenges appealed to by the Finnish initiators appeared to be far less acute and urgent than did, for example the complex security political situation on the Balkans. This scepticism and reluctance was not limited to the intergovernmental Member State context. What also hindered a more dynamic development of the policy was the distinct lack of enthusiasm on the side of the European Commission, which could already be told from the final wording of the policy itself, but was also evident in the way the implementation process was administered.382 This again leads to another weakness of the EU ND, which is related to the overall standing of the policy on the EU geopolitical working agenda. This can be assessed by way of comparing it to the respective standing of other EU policies, and by relating each and either basic objectives in view of their potential complementarity or competition. In the early years, the EU ND has often been perceived as “just a synonym for a useful policy vis-à-vis Russia.”383 Critics argued that the EU would rather need a comprehensive policy not only directed towards one part of Russia but towards several geographical and sectoral areas of common concern and interest. The EU ND would then be integrated (!) into a common EU strategy towards Russia, and thus, be incorporated on a more comprehensive framework. This effect of the EU ND being ‘swallowed’ by subsequent or concurrent EU policies with regional impact will be taken up in the next chapter about ‘the EU as a regional (f)actor in Northern Europe. C. Preliminary Conclusions: The EU as a Regional (F)Actor in Northern Europe The question of what quality the EU’s (f)actorness has in respect to Northern Europe is certainly difficult to be answered within one single chapter. As pointed out at the beginning of this section, the EU has two different ways of how it can impact on a region like the BSR and other meso-regions in Europe. The two channels are indeed available in every context of European integration: the EU can either perform diffusely, in the sense of a broad normative framework with an alleged “disciplinary” power,384 or it can operate actively by establishing concrete policy instruments for a certain policy field or indeed, a specific region. 382 See HAUKKALA Hiski, interview on 22 November 2006. Unpublished personal notes. This aspect will be taken up in chapter “The Finnish Northern Dimension Initiative”, p. 132-, and in chapter “Evaluation: The EU ND Reconsidered”, p. 148-. 383 WESSELS Wolfgang: Introduction. The Northern Dimension as a Challenging Task. In: BONVICINI Gianni/VAAHTORANTA Tapani/WESSELS Wolfgang (eds): The Northern EU. National Views on the Emerging Security Dimension. Helsinki 2000, pp. 18-29, here p. 20. 384 MOROFF Holger: Introduction. In: Id. (ed.): European Soft Security Policies. The Northern Dimension. Kauhava 2002, pp. 12-36, here p. 17.

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Zusammenfassung

Seit 1989 ist es im Ostseeraum zu einer explosionsartigen Entstehung einer Vielzahl von regionalen Initiativen und Zusammenschlüssen gekommen. Der Ostseeraum weist bis heute eine europaweit einzigartig hohe Konzentration an kooperativen regionalen Strukturen auf. Diese bilden gemeinsam ein enges Netzwerk von Vereinigungen, die unter dem Überbegriff der "Ostseezusammenarbeit’ interagieren.

Diese Studie analysiert die Hintergründe dieses regionalen Phänomens oder so genannten „Ostsee-Rätsels“ auf Basis eines Vergleichs zwischen den Regionalpolitiken zweier staatlicher Schlüsselakteure, Schweden und Finnland, wobei der europäische Integrationsprozess als übergeordneter Bezugsrahmen für die Untersuchung dient.